9 thoughts about Beyoncé’s latest release, ‘Cowboy Carter’ — a Beyoncé album with some country tunes

OPINION: Beyoncé’s eighth solo studio album is a fun ride through several genres that demonstrates, quite plainly, that all music is Black music. 

This cover image released by Parkwood/Columbia/Sony shows “Act ll: Cowboy Carter” by Beyonce. (Parkwood/Columbia/Sony via AP)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Like a great many people (I assume), I was up at midnight on March 29, 2024, anxiously awaiting the latest album release from Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter. Since the Grammy Awards where she shock-dropped her two country-flavored singles, “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages,” the conversation about what this album could be (and why) has been a constant conversation. Would it be a country album? What would that sound like? Beyoncé, in a March 19th Instagram post, said, “This ain’t a Country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album.” And boy was she right. I mean, it is a country album, but it is 100% a Beyoncé album that happens to be in the vein of country and Americana music. Oh, and it’s jammin’. I have had “Cowboy Carter” on repeat for hours now, and I am all in on this project. 

Obviously, we need more time to sit with it to properly catch all of the easter eggs and symbolism, etc. I’m sure there will be countless analyses in the next few weeks. But in the mean time, between time, I have some thoughts that I’d like to share about my listening experience thus far. So…can I kick it? 

(Yes you can!)

1. I’m really, really enjoying this album so far. It’s so fun. It goes through so many different sounds and takes on what most of us would consider country music. I can’t say it turns that idea on its head (though Linda Martell talking about genre at the beginning of “Spaghetii”  is a wonderful little shot at all who attempt to limit any artist’s output based on their issues) but it definitely is a Beyoncé-take on it, which is very Black, soulful and funky. It’s a statement.

2. I remember the conversations more than a decade ago where Beyoncé’s longevity was actually up for debate. Part of that convo was that before she dropped her self-titled album — possibly the greatest surprise album release of all time — the narrative around Beyoncé was that nobody really knew her or what she was about. We got glimpses here and there via the few interviews she’d done. That all changed December 13, 2013, when “Beyoncé” showed herself as a whole human; that album introduced us to Beyoncé in a way we didn’t know. I feel like we all got a chance to “see” her for the first time. And then she ripped off “Lemonade,” “Homecoming: The Live Album,” “Renaissance” and “Cowboy Carter.” Now, I feel like I know Beyoncé more as a person and as an artist. She makes artistic statements with her music. The evolution that we didn’t see as an artist before 2013 now exists in its most full-bodied form. I’m curious about what she’s capable of at this point, and there are only a few artists for whom I’d say this. This version of Beyoncé has a point to make and does it in absolutely slaptastic fashion. As we now like to say, “I love this for her.” 

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3. On a personal level, this album hit me very heavily in my feelings. My mother, who passed away in 2022, was a country music fan. I think this album would have been a fun conversation (and argument) point for us. We would argue about its “country music” bonafides. We would debate which, if any, of the songs were good. We would argue about it in full and in pieces, and I’m so so sad that I can’t do that with my mother. I don’t know that this album would bridge any gap for us, but we used to bond over music and though she hated what she viewed as pop country music, I’d make her listen to this album and we’d….talk. I would give anything to be able to have a convo with my mother about this album. I’m getting emotional thinking about this so I’ll just move on. 

4. I have no idea why, but as soon as I thought she was doing a country album I wanted a “Jolene” cover from Beyoncé. Apparently so did Dolly Parton, and I’m guessing a pretty sizable number of people. “Jolene” seems to be one of those songs that even non-country music fans know, but then again, so is Dolly Parton. Point is, I’m glad we got a cover version. Is this going to become the definitive version like Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” or even Bey’s version of “Before I Let Go”? Probably not, but I’m glad it exists, and if I’m wrong I will be happy about that as well. 

5. I was really curious to see who all was gon’ be there. Willie Nelson showing up is the appearance I didn’t even know I needed. I laughed when I saw his name on the credits. Go on ahead, Willie. I figured Beyoncé would reach out to Black artists who create in the country music space, and she did. From Tanner Adell, Shaboozey, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, Willie Jones, and the legend Linda Martell, every appearance was good, and I hope that those artists all get new eyes and ears. What I didn’t see coming was Miley Cyrus and Post Malone…and the aforementioned Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. Shut my mouth wide open…and Color Me Country. Shouts out to Rissi Palmer. 

6. Let’s talk about Miley Cyrus for a minute. She and Beyoncé have a record titled “II Most Wanted” that nearly brought me to tears. First, see #3. Secondly, this song is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” which was one of my mother’s favorite songs. So much so, that I used it for the slideshow of pictures during her funeral making it so that I can’t listen to it any longer without crying. So when “II Most Wanted” started I almost lost it. The two of them sound great together on this record in a way I wasn’t ready for. Miley showed UP, and they basically are going to make me tear up every single time I listen to this song that is so beautiful that I have to listen to it. I miss my mama. I wasn’t expecting to miss my mother so much listening to a Beyoncé album. Oh, I fully expect this song to be performed at the Grammy’s and CMAs where Beyoncé wins all the awards. 

7. Speaking of mothers, I fully expect the song “Protector” (featuring one of her daughters, Rumi Carter) to be the new song used on all social media videos where moms are highlighting the accomplishments of their children. 

8. Yo, “Bodyguard” slaaaaps. “Tyrant” slaaaaps. “Just For Fun” is my jam. “Ya Ya” also. “Riiverdance” has that swing to it. You know that swing. Look, I like everything here. All of it. 

9. I can’t wait to see the reception and reactions to this album from all corners of the Internet. I want to see the people twisting themselves into pretzels to dislike this album and all of the “yassssssssssss honey!” love that will come from the other side. Beyoncé has perfected the art of being an event artist, and I’m here for it. “Cowboy Carter,” like “Renaissance” before it, showed up and is likely to show out. I’m here for it. 

Now where is my 10-gallon hat. I’m late for a hoedown. 

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

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